KDD: The Challenge to Individualism

A.H. Vedder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) confronts us with phenomena that can intuitively be grasped as highly problematic, but are nevertheless difficult to understand and articulate. Many of these problems have to do with what I call the "deindividualization of the person": a tendency of judging and treating persons on the basis of group characteristics instead of on their own individual characteristics and merits. This tendency will be one of the consequences of the production and use of group profiles with the help of KDD. Current privacy law and regulations, as well as current ethical theory concerning privacy, start from too narrow a definition of "personal data" to capture these problems. In this paper, I introduce the notion of "categorical privacy" as a starting point for a possible remedy for the failures of the current conceptions of privacy. I discuss some ways in which the problems relating to group profiles definitely cannot be solved and I suggest a possible way out of these problems. Finally, I suggest that it may take us a step forward if we would begin to question the predominance of privacy norms in the social debate on information technologies and if we would be prepared to introduce normative principles other than privacy rules for the assessment of new information technologies. If we do not succeed in articulating the problems relating to KDD clearly, one day we may find ourselves in a situation where KDD appears to have undermined the methodic and normative individualism which pervades the mainstream of morality and moral theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-281
Number of pages7
JournalEthics and Information Technology
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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